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Mapping the spider genome
Date:5/7/2014

The fact that the eight-legged creepy spider in some ways resembles humans is one of the surprising conclusions after researchers at Aarhus University and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) succeeded in sequencing its genome.

However, it is more a discovery on an awesome scale. The sequencing has far greater significance for our future understanding of the spider's special properties.

"In brief, we've acquired a tool for everyone interested in spiders," say Kristian W. Sanggaard and Jesper S. Bechsgaard, Aarhus University. Together with Xiaodong Fang, BGI, they are the first authors of the study, which has been published in Nature Communications. By describing the spider genome, the researchers have roughly speaking drawn up its genetic map. This map can be used in future to navigate to and delve into different areas of the spider's functions which will now be easier to describe.

What is a spider?

The researchers worked with two types of spiders, representing two of the three main groups in the spider family. One of these is a small velvet spider and the other is a tarantula.

The researchers succeeded in sequencing the velvet spider's genome, while there are still some unsolved gaps in the genetic map of the tarantula.

"The idea was that, by comparing their genetic makeup, we'd try to see whether we could say anything in general terms about what makes a spider a spider," says Kristian W. Sanggaard. However, it is almost 300 million years since the two types of spiders had a common ancestor, so the researchers could only find a limited number of similarities. "But we found a number of genes about two to three hundred that have only been found in these two types of spiders and not in other organisms. They could be candidates for genes specific to spiders," says Jesper S. Bechsgaard.

From overview to insight

The researchers were not content with simply mapping the spider gen
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Contact: Jesper Smærup Bechsgaard
jesper.bechsgaard@biology.au.dk
45-61-68-43-34
Aarhus University
Source:Eurekalert  

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